07/09/2013 05:13 pm ET Updated Sep 08, 2013

A Look Back at Nostalgia

I love Jimi Hendrix. I think.

Yeah, I do. For sure. At least his hits, or the songs that remind me of Holly Holman, who I had a crush on in junior high school when "Purple Haze" and "Foxy Lady" were big and Hendrix was the coolest guy in the world.

But seriously, his music is great, especially those long solos my friends made me listen to in their basements as they told me what a genius he was. Hendrix was the best.

I think. I guess.

Actually, I'm not sure anymore.

It's not a question of memory loss, although I do sometimes forget why I entered a room (usually to search for my keys). But when I look back at music, or just about anything else, it's becoming harder to distinguish what I thought was good or what I like because it reminds me of being young.

I noticed this while my wife and I are driving. Despite being born post-baby boom, she set the radio to a '70s station, which to me is like carrying a list of Applebee's restaurants in case you get hungry. There may be variety, but the chances of getting something really good are, um, slim.

A song will come on, and she'll ask if I know it and I'll say, "Are you kidding me? Of course I do. '25 or 6 to 4,' by Chicago. They were great."

Then a moment later I'll think, no, wait, they were awful, and that's a particularly terrible song although not even their worst. That distinction probably goes to "Saturday in the Park." Or maybe, "Colour my World." (Seriously, guys, you're from Chicago, what's with the pretentious British spelling?)

It happens a lot. We'll hear "Crocodile Rock," "A Horse with No Name," "Can't Get Enough" -- any of the era's cheesy singles or plodding songs by bands who occasionally remerge at state fairs. My first reaction is a smile of recognition followed by a feeling of nostalgia, which of course is the Thomas Kinkade of emotions.

It's not confined to music. I'll watch an old show or movie with my family and by the end be as disappointed as my kids. For sure, being dated is part of it. But so is who I was when the show or song came out. I was a younger, more agile, less sagging version of myself, one whose first thought upon waking wasn't, "man, that hurts."

There are plenty of exceptions, movies and music that hold up well or surpass anything current. Some of it even predates baby boomers (just kidding; music started in 1964). And books don't fit the formula at all: Catch-22 and The Great Gatsby are as relevant as when they were published -- and by the way, I think Taylor Lautner is going to be the perfect Nick in the 2028 remake.

But as we get older, our memories often get softer. Sometimes that's good: Who doesn't want to remember high school as better than it was? But it's best to leave that way of thinking to reunions. If we recall everything as fantastic when we were young, then today doesn't stand a chance, and we risk becoming a baby boomer's biggest fear: Old people who go on and on about how things used to be better when they were kids. The same type of old people we used to make fun of when they told us rock n' roll wasn't music, Andy Williams, now that's music!

Nostalgia has its place, of course. But it shouldn't rule all our memories.

That said, Holly Holman really was cute.